As the Greenbrier High School football team prepared for the opening kickoff in its initial scrimmage of the 2002 season, Wolfpack junior Brooks Robinson decided it was time to be heard.
"Ogletree! Get down there and make the hit," Robinson called to Greenbrier special teams player Kyle Ogletree.
Pack place-kicker Ben Tankersley swung his leg, and the Aug. 8 action against Lincoln County at the Brierpatch was underway.
Ogletree sprinted downfield and laid a lick on the Lincoln County return man, making the first contact of Greenbrier's gridiron campaign.
Greenbrier opens the regular season at home against Evans on Aug. 30, but for high school football teams, scrimmage games are important preparation for the contests that count.
"There was hard hitting by both teams, and that was one thing I was hoping to see," Pack coach Mickey Derrick said of the matchup with Lincoln County. "You expect to make some mistakes and have some penalties in the first scrimmage, but you want to see if your players will hit and stay with it."
During the 36-minute scrimmage, Greenbrier unveiled the shotgun formation, which was manned by Robinson at quarterback. The Pack varsity played the first, second and fourth quarters, and forged a 7-7 tie with the Red Devils.
"I think we did pretty well," Derrick said. "Anytime you stay with Lincoln County, you're doing pretty well."
Lincoln County tacked on some points against the Greenbrier junior varsity, but the true value of a the scrimmage did not hinge on the final score.
"There's nothing more valuable to get under the lights and get used to game situations," Derrick said.
With the Pack returning just three offensive and six defensive starters, positions are wide open this season. In that respect, Greenbrier's players were battling against both the Red Devils and each other.
"It's just like the preseason games for NFL rookies," Derrick said. "Players are out there trying to earn a job for the year."
The Lakeside Panthers visited Cross Creek High School Aug. 9 for a scrimmage, and although neither team scored, Lakeside coach Randy Hill saw some positives.
"We didn't do too bad," Hill said. "We just did basic things with our offense, and didn't make many mistakes, which is good."
Hill says the preseason action will allow his players to shake off the jitters and feel comfortable when Lakeside faces Westside in the regular season opener at Panther Stadium on Aug. 30.
"They can get used to playing under pressure, and that will make a big difference in the opening game," he said. "We're running the ball a little more this season, so drive blocking is a new thing for our linemen. We are also using the option, which requires some timing, so these scrimmages will help with that."
The scrimmages build confidence, and for Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis, that makes this Friday's preseason game with Glenn Hills (7 p.m. at Harlem) worth the risk.
"Someone asked my why we were going to scrimmage Glenn Hills, because somebody might get hurt," Lewis said. "You can get hurt in practice just as easily as in a game. The main thing is we'll get to hit somebody else."
The Georgia High School Association allows two 36 minute scrimmages this year, which is an increase from previous seasons. Greenbrier and Lakeside each have held two scrimmages, while Evans plays its second scrimmage this Friday when Lincoln County visits Blanchard Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to giving players game experience, scrimmages draw fans, which means money - and Columbia County teams are making the most of it.
"We had a real good turnout. We made over $2,000, and it's big for us to take in that much money for our program," Derrick said.
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